Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, awarded Cantor Sharon Ruth Kohn with the Doctor of Music at Graduation Ceremonies in New York on Thursday, April 29, 2010, at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. Cantor Kohn was honored for 25 years of scholarly distinction as an alumna of HUC-JIR.
Cantor Kohn received her Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Illinois State University in 1980. She was invested at HUC-JIR's School of Sacred Music in 1985 and received the Master of Sacred Music in 1989.
Cantor Kohn was the first woman cantor in the state of Texas and possibly in the southwest region of the then UAHC, when she took the position at Temple Emanu-El in Houston in 1985. She worked at Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, LA, from 1990 to 1991, where she planned and sang liturgy and introduced the synagogue to what an HUC-JIR graduate cantor could bring. After a year of being an interim cantor, the congregation went into placement and hired its first of many invested cantors.
Cantor Kohn helped create a place for a cantor on the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR. She was the first to hold the job, which is now a full-time position. Cantor Kohn explains that this is especially meaningful for her because, "I was able to give back to the institution which had taught me all that I had needed and wanted so very much to learn. I am proud that rabbinic students on all 3 state-side campuses now have the opportunity to learn from and work with cantors, as they will in the field.
Cantor Kohn has served the American Conference of Cantors, an affiliate of the Reform movement, for the entire 25 years of her cantorate. Her main interests and focuses are leadership development and continuing education. She has co-chaired two conventions, and was a program chair for a third. She served on the Executive Board several times, the latest being from 2002 to the present. Her biggest challenge was chairing the Special Task Force on Placement, Membership, and Education. Most of its recommendations have been implemented, or are in process, including the College taking over the certification process.
Cantor Kohn is most proud of the many students she has taught over the years. "It was teaching cantilation that really drew me into the cantorate. That is still what gives me immense joy," Cantor Kohn explains.